Several items in Friday''s newspaper explain as well as anything where we are, and that we ain''t going anywhere else.
The issue is Palestine, high on the international agenda since the 20''s of the last century. Prominent markers, after the Balfour Declaration, were the Peel Commission of 1936-37, various UN resolutions, a war and cease fire agreements from 1947-48, the war of 1967 and the Khartoum declaration, uncountable encounters between Israelis and Palestinians and proposals by American presidents, secretaries of state and other emissaries.
The latest marker is the cartoon in Ha''aretz, showing Secretary of State Kerry sitting at a table with Palestinian and Israeli flags, but no one to represent either. The Secretary is saying, "I think that we are able to begin."
Another item is a short article, on an inner page of Israel Hayom, indicating that Kerry may be coming again, for his fifth visit to the region since being named Secretary of State. The headline indicates that Abu Mazan (Mahmoud Abbas) is committed to negotiations, but the problems appear in the text. The Palestinian leader (West Bank only) says that Israel must make decisions (presumably giving the Palestinians what they want). And there is no final word about a visit from the State Department. A spokesman said that the Secretary will travel if it appears that a visit will help the parties take a step toward peace.
A third item comes from the Jerusalem Post, and indicates that Palestinians are beginning another international campaign, this one meant to stake their claims to something not generally considered to be part of the West Bank.
The headline says that "Palestinians campaign to regain ''occupied'' Latrun." The article notes that the PLO''s Negotiations Affairs Department, headed by Saeb Erekat, has published a document stating among other things,
"As a result of the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) when two-thirds of the Palestinian population were forcibly exiled from their homes by Zionist militias prior to the creation of the State of Israel, almost half of the valley is now considered No Man’s Land (NML) an integral part of the Occupied State of Palestine.”
Whether" two-thirds of the Palestinian population were forcibly exiled from their homes by Zionist militias" is a matter of some dispute, and leaves out Palestinian and other Arab complicity in violence, but we''ll leave that aside for the purposes of this note.
The article refers to an Israeli official "stunned" by the campaign about Latrun. Referring to Secretary Kerry''s effort to restart negotiations, the Israeli said,
"It’s almost as if every time we move forward, or every time there is a prospect of moving forward, the Palestinians bring up an issue which they know is a game breaker. . . . (It) raises concerns as to their seriousness (and) their attitude to the peace process. . . . No Israeli government, no Israeli prime minister, can seriously entertain that this area would be going to the Palestinians. Instead of dealing with the very issues that Kerry is asking the sides to deal with, it appears the Palestinians are playing games and regressing to hard-line positions that should have been left behind years ago.”
Wonderment is more the theme of this note than blame. No one who has followed this issue, including its historical antecedents of close to a century, should be surprised by the impasse. The words and details may change from one episode to another, but the larger picture remains the same. Choose what you will-- the Palestinians cannot accept Israel, Israelis reject any significant retreat from what they have accomplished, or both together.
The wonder deals with outsiders'' persistence in trying yet again.
Perhaps they are the harmless gestures of great powers not directly involved in the disputes to identify with the posture widely believed to be politically correct, taking account of Muslim votes in international forums, energy resources, their strategic location alongside the trouble spot of Iran, and their relevance to the high profile issues of Islamic extremism and terror.
Appointments by President Obama of Susan Rice as National Security Adviser and Samantha Power as Ambassador to the United Nations are causing concern to Israel watchers. Both are on record with statements that qualify as extreme in regard to their support for the Palestinian cause. We are seeing clips of Power saying in the midst of the second and most deadly intifada that the United States ought to be providing military aid to Palestine rather than to Israel, in order to allow the Palestinians to defend themselves against Israel. Yet no less of an Israel advocate than Alan Dershowitz has endorsed her appointment.
"While serving in the Obama administration, she has supported Israel''s security and defensive actions against terrorism. She stands squarely behind President Obama''s pledge never to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, even if preventive military action is required. She played a pivotal role in persuading the United States and some of our European allies to boycott the notorious Durban II conference, sponsored by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, which invited Ahmadinejad to be its keynote speaker.
I''ll risk a prediction based upon 100 years experience. Palestine will remain more prominent in the media than a host of other places where suffering is objectively greater, but not much will happen. For years now we have the equilibrium of Palestinian complaints, sizable aid, political corruption, lots of tongues clucking about injustice, and other issues being even more prominent in the media and demanding action.
Take your pick. Are the really important issues those dealing with Syria, Iran, Islamic extremism and terror, North Korea, or global warming?
Is all the concern with Palestine nothing more than the blather of the State Department and various foreign ministries, while the real political action in each country concerns its domestic problems. International issues are secondary, until there is an unavoidable explosion on the international scene that must be addressed. "Unavoidable" is apparent only in hindsight. Iraq''s invasion of Kuwait and 9-11 qualified. Kosovo, Libya, and Mali were lesser blips. Syria is so far only a killing field for the proxies of Russia, Iran, and several Muslim countries opposed to them. Western powers have not done much more than clucking their tongues about the tragedy.